PHILIPPINE Fashion Week, Preview Best-Dressed Ball, MetroWear and Tatler Ball—these are just some of the major fashion events that are annually flocked by fashion enthusiasts and social figures to celebrate the beauty of style and elegance.
However, in the recent State of the Nation Address of the President, the pressure of donning a not-so-typical Filipiniana terno transcended from the runway to the Batasang Pambansa. The moment these political and social figures stepped into the red carpet, the outfits they wore went viral for essentially two reasons—either they were chosen as the best dressed, or as a fashion faux pas.
Unlike in fashion events, the people involved in this kind of political event do not only consider the reactions of the fashion and style connoisseurs; they also have to be careful not to offend or provoke the watchful eye of the public. In fact, designers, in their “porkless forecast” predicted that lawmakers and their plus ones would come in simple and not over the top ensembles—especially that taxpayers still remain vigilant following the pork barrel scam exposé. Lawmakers had to ensure that their gowns and suits do not shout “donated by the Philippine taxpayers.”
Haute couture is expensive. This is the general rule that everyone knows. When pictures of congressional spouses in their designer gowns were posted on different social media platforms, netizens flooded them with comments. One comment goes: “Can’t they just wear a simple Filipiniana dress made by a local and just donate to the poor the thousands of pesos they are spending just to sit and watch the SONA?” One was more direct to the point: “One out of five Filipinos are hungry and these thieves do nothing but show off their loot!”
Basically, the tenor of their sentiments was either the money paid for the outfit was taken from the public coffers or that the money should have been donated to the poor instead. The public associated the costs of the garment to the amount of pork barrel allegedly corrupted by these lawmakers.
In addition, fashion blunders sometimes dilute the important issues tackled in the SONA proper. Case in point: Senator Nancy Binay’s controversial outfit. The bashers spent more time making and sharing memes rather than discussing the meat of PNoy’s annual report to Congress. To avoid these kinds of prejudices and criticisms, lawmakers should really consider Sen. Miriam Santiago’s resolution prescribing a standard uniform for this national event.
Lawmakers’ / Public Figures’ Perspective
In a society like ours—where every public figure’s move is magnified—lawmakers surely are cautious of their actions and decisions. Even if they do not covet being the best-dressed, they are nevertheless obliged to follow the dress code. As to the price of their outfits, the only control they have is on the choice of the designer. Renowned or budding, these designers may sometimes quote a different price for these people of stature. The most important thing is that if they decide to pay for the price of fashion, they should take it from their own pockets. Typically, it is not usually the lawmakers or their spouses who don the most expensive gowns, but rather celebrities like Kris Aquino, Lucy Torres, and Heart Evangelista, who expect the camera to center and focus on them.
The event is also the opportunity for some designers to showcase their talent and skills. This is the best avenue for them to show the quality of their work as well as their design aesthetics. Unbeknownst to everybody, not all the gowns worn in high profile events like the SONA are paid for by the user. Sometimes, designers offer their creations to public figures as a form of free advertisement. As regards the price of other gowns, like any other profession, haute couture necessarily requires a hefty price since you pay for the quality (with hand executed techniques), exclusivity (made specifically for wearer’s body type), and the fabric grade. Technically, when a public figure pays for these gowns, it is not entirely a waste of money, but can also be regarded as a way to support the domestic fashion industry.
Settling all these, the important issue here is not how these public figures spend their money, but where they acquired this. There is no prohibition on wearing flashy or expensive outfits given that it is part of one’s freedom to express his or her lifestyle, advocacy, or stand. Fashion is a statement and whatever this may convey to the public, lawmakers should always be prepared to explain their side. P